Truman Capote (30 September 1924, New Orleans, Louisiana - 25 August 1984, Los Angeles, California)
Truman Capote (30 September 1924, New Orleans, Louisiana - 25 August 1984, Los Angeles, California) was an American writer whose stories, novels, plays and non-fiction are recognized literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and In Cold Blood (1965), which he labeled a "non-fiction novel." At least 20 films and TV dramas have been produced from Capote novels, stories and screenplays.
Truman Capote was born Truman Streckfus Persons in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of 17-year-old Lillie Mae (nйe Faulk) and Archelaus Persons, who was a salesman. When he was four, his parents divorced, and he was sent to Monroeville, Alabama, where he was raised by his mother's relatives. He formed a fast bond with his mother's distant relative, Nanny Rumbley Faulk, whom Truman called 'Sook'. "Her face is remarkable-not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind," is how Capote described Sook in "A Christmas Memory." In Monroeville, he was a neighbor and friend of Harper Lee, who grew up to write To Kill a Mockingbird.
As a lonely child, Capote taught himself to read and write before he entered the first grade in school. Capote was often seen at age five carrying his dictionary and notepad, and he began writing when he was ten.  At this time, he was given the nickname Bulldog, possibly a pun reference of "Bulldog Truman" to the fictional detective Bulldog Drummond popular in films of the mid-1930s.
On Saturdays, he made trips from Monroeville to Mobile, and when he was ten, he submitted his short story, "Old Mr. Busybody," to a children's writing contest sponsored by the Mobile Press Register.
In 1933, he moved to New York City to live with his mother and her second husband, Joseph Capote, a Cuban-born textile broker, who adopted his stepson and renamed him Truman Garcнa Capote. When he was 11, he began writing seriously in daily three-hour sessions. Of his early days Capote related, "I began writing really sort of seriously when I was about eleven. I say seriously in the sense that like other kids go home and practice the violin or the piano or whatever, I used to go home from school every day and I would write for about three hours. I was obsessed by it." In 1935, he attended the Trinity School. He then attended St. Joseph's military academy. In 1939, the Capotes moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, and Truman attended Greenwich High School, where he wrote for both the school's literary journal, The Green Witch, and the school newspaper. Back in New York in 1942, he graduated from the Dwight School, an Upper West Side private school where an award is now given annually in his name.
When he was 17, Capote ended his formal education and began a two-year job at The New Yorker. Years later, he wrote, "Not a very grand job, for all it really involved was sorting cartoons and clipping newspapers. Still, I was fortunate to have it, especially since I was determined never to set a studious foot inside a college classroom. I felt that either one was or wasn't a writer, and no combination of professors could influence the outcome. I still think I was correct, at least in my own case."
Between 1943 and 1946, Capote wrote a continual flow of short fiction, including "A Mink of One's Own," "Miriam," (for which he won the O. Henry Award) "My Side of the Matter," "Preacher's Legend," "Shut a Final Door" and "The Walls Are Cold." These stories were published in both literary quarterlies and well-known magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Bazaar, Harper's Magazine, Mademoiselle, The New Yorker, Prairie Schooner and Story. Interviewed in 1957 for the The Paris Review, Capote was asked about his short story technique, answering:
Since each story presents its own technical problems, obviously one can't generalize about them on a two-times-two-equals-four basis. Finding the right form for your story is simply to realize the most natural way of telling the story. The test of whether or not a writer has defined the natural shape of his story is just this: After reading it, can you imagine it differently, or does it silence your imagination and seem to you absolute and final? As an orange is final. As an orange is something nature has made just right.
In 1943 Capote wrote his first novel, Summer Crossing about the summer romance of Fifth Avenue socialite Grady O'Neil with a parking lot attendant. Capote later claimed to have destroyed it, and it was regarded as a lost work. However, it was stolen in 1966 by a housesitter Capote hired to watch his Brooklyn apartment, resurfaced in 2004 and was published by Random House in 2005.
In June 1945, Mademoiselle published his short story "Miriam" which won an O. Henry Award (Best First-Published Story) in 1946. In the spring of 1946, Capote was accepted at Yaddo, the 400-acre artists and writers colony at Saratoga Springs, New York.
"Miriam" attracted the attention of publisher Bennett Cerf, resulting in a contract with Random House to write a novel. With an advance of $1,500, Capote returned to Monroeville and began Other Voices, Other Rooms, continuing to work on the manuscript in New Orleans, Louisiana, Saratoga Springs and North Carolina, eventually completing it in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Capote described the symbolic tale as "a poetic explosion in highly suppressed emotion." The novel is a semi-autobiographical refraction of Capote's Alabama childhood. Decades later, writing in The Dogs Bark (1973), he looked back:
Other Voices, Other Rooms was an attempt to exorcise demons, an unconscious, altogether intuitive attempt, for I was not aware, except for a few incidents and descriptions, of its being in any serious degree autobiographical. Rereading it now, I find such self-deception unpardonable.
The story focuses on 13-year-old Joel Knox following the loss of his mother. Joel is sent from New Orleans, Louisiana to live with his father who abandoned him at the time of his birth. Arriving at Skully's Landing, a vast, decaying mansion in rural Alabama, Joel meets his sullen stepmother Amy, debauched transvestite Randolph and defiant Idabel, a girl who becomes his friend. He also sees a spectral "queer lady" with "fat dribbling curls" watching him from a top window. Despite Joel's queries, the whereabouts of his father remain a mystery. When he finally is allowed to see his father, Joel is stunned to find he was crushed by a piano and near death. He runs away with Idabel but catches pneumonia and eventually returns to the Landing where he is nursed back to health by Randolph. The implication in the final paragraph is that the "queer lady" beckoning from the window, is Randolph in his old Mardi Gras costume. Gerald Clarke, inCapote: A Biography (1988) described the conclusion:
Finally, when he goes to join the queer lady in the window, Joel accepts his destiny, which is to be homosexual, to always hear